Whatever happened to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? In recent years, Towson has seen a resurgence in development but often times projects emerge without the solicitation of input (at least seriously) by the residents most affected by such endeavors. Local government officials who have received campaign donations from major developers see these projects as good for business without affording proper consideration to how urban sprawl will effect the residents of those in close proximity to the development; just follow the money through County Council members and the county executive to see the developer-to-elected-official connection. Draw then on the correlation to see just whose projects receive approval.
Though individuals might seem powerless in these "David vs. Goliath" endeavors, the unity of the community can help equalize the playing field. Contemporary research underscores this. A peer reviewed article by Victor Turner titled, "Neighborhood Associations and Homeowner Associations: Do They Really Make a Difference in Your Community" that appeared in the September/October edition of Public Administration Review shows that this appears to be the case. Regardless of the association, members operating together can have a positive impact on their communities, the quality of life, and the value of their residences.
How is this put into practice? Take into consideration the recent planned urban development (PUD) for the Towson Gateway Project at the corners of Bosley Avenue and York Road. Both the West Towson Neighborhood Association (WTNA) and the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations (GTCCA), and other organizations were instrumental in applying pressure to local officials to get them to reconsider the installation of gas pumps at this major intersection. The overwhelming statements and testimony from community members at the Aug. 1 meeting in the old county courthouse on the PUD showed that it was nearly unanimous that the project should be pulled (the one exception came from the developer). County Executive Kevin Kamenetz had finally heard the voice of the people.
This week, Councilman David Marks announced on his Facebook page that Bosley Estates, LLC through the law firm Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid, LLP submitted an application for a PUD. This one gravitates around the historic Bosley Mansion site. According to the application, the developer wants to build upscale condominium units. Though the request states that the developer intends to preserve the historic mansion and lawn, residents should be allowed to "weigh in" on designs to ensure that the integrity of the neighborhood is maintained, that adequate outdoor space exists, and that venture won't inhibit traffic movement throughout well before the PUD is voted on. We sincerely hope that our community will be included early in the process to help work with the developer to ensure that the interests of the residents of Towson are taken seriously; we have a voice, and our voice should be heard.
Action and success can and should transcend Towson. Urban centers throughout downtown Baltimore and Baltimore County can take a page from the successes derived from such organizations as WTNA and the GTCCA. Neighborhood and homeowner associations alike can be instrumental in rallying community support to help equalize the playing field; they can be a powerful force in not just requesting but demanding that the voices of their constituents are heard. After all, it should not be about what big money wants, it should also be about what the people want. (We live here.) We should get back to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
John Weaver, Towson
The writer is vice president of the West Towson Neighborhood Association.
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